Sometimes you just need to while away a lazy Sunday afternoon eating dim sum.
Last week, I wrote about Leong's Legends, a decent Taiwanese restaurant in Chinatown which recently opened a dim sum offshoot, Dumplings' Legend, just around the corner on Gerrard Street. Reading comments on my post about LL's excellent Siu Loung Bao (or Xiao Long Bao) brought on cravings. It was time to investigate the newbie's offerings.
On the site of the former Golden Harvest, the downstairs room is large and airy with white walls and minimalistic touches. It's fresher looking than some of its neighbours - quite like an Asian St John's in terms of decor. We were lucky to be seated at the front, where the whole wall is a window and the sunshine flitted in over our lunch as we watched the characters of Chinatown amble by. Upstairs is more poky, but does the job.
We arrived about 2pm - prime time it seems. The dining room was packed and a small queue was growing rapidly. However, 3 dumpling makers were at work behind a glass panel at the entrance, rolling, folding and stuffing delicate dumpling wrappers. It's mesmerising to watch while you wait - although I do wonder how long it takes before RSI sets in.
"Whatever", you say. To the food, the food...
Our knobbly cheung-fun arrive first - three generous, slinky, slug-like noodles stuffed with ample slices of sea bass and picked vegetables. A fair price at £3.30. The next table orders the spicy stir fried cheung-fun which looks good and appears to be a popular choice around the room.
Steamed sticky rice in a bamboo tube is delicious but so thick it borders on congealed - a decent set of biceps is required to scoop it out (£4.50).
Barbecued pork buns are excellent - fluffy and filled with big, juicy splashes of sweet, red barbecued meat (3 for £2.50).
Crystal prawn dumplings are small, pretty things, sweet and plump - but nothing which stands out above the norm here (£2.50). Chicken wrapped in banana leaf with Chinese is a highlight - deliciously moist, with satisfying chunks of chicken and Chinese sausage (£2.20).
Finally, out come the pork Siu Loung Bao, for which Leong's Legends are renowed (£6.00). At Dumplings' Legend, they're also fantastic - the little smurf's hut shaped wrapper is quite delicate and so you have to be careful not to pierce it, spilling broth onto the table. It snuggles a parcel of meat within as well as a warm soupy broth which explodes into your mouth on first bite. These should be an essential part of your dim sum order here. The accompanying soy sauce contains thick slithers of shredded ginger - a lovely touch.
We finish with a serve of 3 tiny egg tarts (£2.20) - these are TPG's thing more than mine. They're nothing special, but I quite like the fact they don't taste overly eggy,
Service is efficient and friendlier than you might experience at some Chinatown restaurants. We paid around £15 per head including tea and service, although we could have done with 1 less dish and 1 less pot of tea (at £2.20 each) had we not been feeling so greedy.
Both Leong's Legends and Dumplings' Legend highlight their "highly recommended" dishes with 2 stars on the menu. Interestingly, "Legends specialties" are distinguished with 1 star. I'm not sure what the distinction means.
Dumplings' Legend is good, and it's already popular. I think it may become my cheap and cheerful dim sum restaurant of choice when those Sunday afternoon cravings set in.
Dumplings' Legend, 15-16 Gerrard Street, Chinatown, London, W1D 6JE